OTTAWA—Imagine descending on the nation’s capital to protest being alive. In that respect, this Darwin Awards of a protest is one I can stand behind.
Over the weekend, thousands of truck drivers drove to Ottawa from all over the country to protest COVID-19 vaccination mandates and cause mayhem. From defecating on people’s property to peeing on the War Memorial, to harassing residents, to threatening the prime minister with pictures of nooses, this protest is anything but peaceful. But the real crime against humanity was the desecration of the Terry Fox statue. It is then that white, liberal Ottawa took offence—after the swastikas and the Confederate flags, of course.
Let me be clear. This #FluTruxKlan of a protest is part of a larger movement, one I wrote about previously in 2020. I made the case that the anti-lockdown protests were highly co-ordinated, ostensibly to get Trump re-elected. The New York Times reported on the groups behind those protests: “The groups have tapped their networks to drive up turnout at recent rallies in state capitals, dispatched their lawyers to file lawsuits, and paid for polling and research to undercut the arguments behind restrictions that have closed businesses and limited the movement of most Americans.” The anti-lockdown protesters, anti-maskers, violent anti-vaxxers, Wexiters, “freedom convoys,” Yellow-Vesters, neo-Nazis, and the far right are all the same people—a Venn diagram of superimposed circles. And they mean no good to this country—in fact, the Diagolon network, who are neo-Nazis and supporters of the convoy, called for a Jan. 6-style insurgency in Canada, thereby undermining democracy and encouraging sedition.
Suffice it to say, Antifa is not the problem.
This convoy is an upgrade from United We Roll (UWR), which descended on Ottawa in January 2019. It is better funded and better co-ordinated, with two political parties (assuming the People’s Party of Canada can be called a political party, rather than a fascist cult) fighting to align themselves with the “movement”. The Yellow-Vesters who organized the 2019 convoy were also neo-Nazis. The Anti-Hate Network has done great work in tracking the rise and exposure of the far-right, much better than mainstream media, which again failed to discover the white supremacist connections of this convoy, after behaving as their stenographer with little-to-no interrogation whatsoever. The Anti-Hate Network wrote, “Organized primarily by associates of the Canadian Yellow Vest movement, UWR painted a narrative of disenfranchised oil and gas workers riding their rigs cross country to force a detached and distant Ottawa to listen.”
The pandemic has provided excellent opportunities to infiltrate people and organizations with their message. As Anti-Hate explained: “Since the start of the pandemic, COVID conspiracies have been bringing various fringe and far-right elements together. The close connections between the People’s Party of Canada, the young white supremacists of Canada First, and the Diagolon network is one example. This convoy is another.”
For Conservative politicians who complain about division—*cough* Candice Bergen *cough*—perhaps they need to look at their support of elements of this country that can literally rip it apart.
Let me be even clearer: anyone who supports those who want to undermine a democratically elected government through a kudatah should automatically be removed from office. That edict, of course, would ravage the Conservative Party that is more likely to support fascism than anti-racism efforts, or residential school survivors.
Imagine being so bad at reading the mood of people whose votes you need to form government, yet the Conservatives think their problem is they’re not right enough. If the Conservatives shifted more rightward, they’d be occupying bunk space in Maxime Bernier’s lap.
This country is tearing at the seams and it’s the threat of right-wing violence that’s dividing us, not people bringing up the racism/misogyny/discrimination they experience.
The Conservative Party has been using the technique of right-wing Republicans’ casual—and not so casual—racism to draw votes; there is never a racist political act that they’re not involved in. Never forget that the origins of Bill 21 started with the Conservatives’ introduction of the niqab ban and the Zero Tolerance for Barbaric Cultural Practices Act (2015) that codified gender-based Islamophobia for the masses.
Never forget that it was the Conservatives that thought so lowly of people of colour and so dismissively of the systemic racism we face, they left us out of their election platform as though we were too invisible to matter; the Conservatives treated dogs with more humanity than Black and brown people by this metric. And then they lost the 905.
Never forget that on the day before the fifth anniversary of the Quebec City mosque shooting, Erin O’Toole decided to meet with the aforementioned white supremacists, only to repeat the tacit support that Andrew Scheer gave the United We Roll convoy three years prior. Never forget that at this rally, Scheer graced a stage later occupied by Faith Goldy, a known white supremacist who ran for mayor of Toronto, and Bernier.
This is the Conservative Party that is revolting against its leader for being too soft on LGBTQ issues. Oh, the irony.
However, this is all good for Trudeau. We’ve almost forgotten that the Liberals don’t know how to move us beyond this pandemic. And they have cleverly made vaccine mandates a wedge issue that ties the Conservatives to a basket of deplorables that make the party look like it’s a stone’s throw away from underwriting insurrection and dining with Nazis. O’Toole had a choice: no one called his name but he chose to insert himself in a capricious protest that is filled with hate.
And he’s not the only one. Michael Cooper infamously “took great umbrage” with what he called, “defamatory comments to try to link conservatism with violent and extremist attacks,” when the Standing Committee on Justice and Human Rights held hearings on online hate. As I wrote before: “Not to be outdone by that episode, the Conservatives decided to continue this shitshow by inviting Lindsay Shepherd, Mark Steyn, and John Robson as witnesses.” These are all people from the far right. Unfortunately for Cooper, he was photographed at this rally doing an interview in front of a swastika. A picture is worth a thousand words.
O’Toole should be removed as Conservative leader, he’s embarrassed that party enough, however given Conservative predilections these days, they won’t be on the right side of history when they choose a new one.
Erica Ifill is a co-host of the Bad+Bitchy podcast.
The Hill Times